Today, as I write this, I’ve been spending a quiet afternoon planning November. October came and went and, although we were busy putting the house on the market, planning a move, getting giddy contemplating the redecoration of the potential new house and hosting family, now that I have a moment to reflect, my first impulse is to wonder what I achieved.
Looking back on Instagram I posted eleven photographs. A bit of a shortfall on my plan to post daily – although I managed to do a few more Instastories. But I’m quite proud of the photos I did post and they reflect my joy of pottering around the garden looking for newly fallen Hawthorn berries, plus some walks down to the canal and the local park. All taken with my iPhone 11, they remind me how much I love photography and that I should factor it in more often.
Sometimes life just gets in the way. We have weeks when we are mostly travelling, there are errands to run or the basics of life such as food shopping (it’s worth noting that we are abysmal shoppers!). No two weeks are the same so creating a routine can be a challenge.
As an introvert my favourite way of working is undisturbed, with long stretches of uninterrupted time ahead of me so that I can gain momentum and do a deep dive into whatever I’m doing. It can take a while to get started and each interruption can necessitate regrouping and restarting. It depends what I’m doing. Anything involving writing or words invariably needs me to dive in again.
I’m not great with noise either. I have a set of industrial earplugs to filter out some of the sounds. I need to think the words through in my head. I remember once at a day job trying to write a carefully worded email when two people stood right next to my desk having a conversation. I kept reading the same sentence over and over until they finally moved away.
Strangely enough, I can be productive in cafes. I’ve come to the conclusion that this is because no-one is likely to disturb me and the ambient noise tends to be pretty consistent.
This month I’m determined to plan around known distractions and not to lose sight of my goals. I’ve decided that the way to do this is to be super organised.
Here’s how I’m going to do it!
use separate notebooks
I’m a big notebook and stationery fan. I have a large collection of notebooks. I’ve tried various approaches – having a main notebook for everything, having separate notebooks for different subjects. I’m finding that specific notebooks is the way to go. Helen Redfern’s posts about how she uses her notebooks have been incredibly helpful.
So, last week I bought three Silvine A4 squared notebooks. A bit like school exercise books, they’re a cheerful orange colour and with my favourite squared paper. Inexpensive at £1.79, the paper’s good quality and there’s no fountain pen bleed through. Always a bonus! I’ve designated them as follows: blog post, content and Instagram ideas.
Blog ideas: an outline for this post, the start of some future blog posts
Content ideas: newsletter topics, potential future newsletter content, how to market my newsletter, outline for a download
Instagram ideas: I got carried away and started writing my blog post schedule and blog ideas but this should be for daily post and Instastory ideas
I also have a Morning Pages journal, various writing project notebooks, as well as my Lemome which has become my brain dump, and my Filofax.
Notebooks can be a bit like the internet – you start going down a rabbit hole. By keeping them all ring fenced, I find I’m more focused on the task in hand.
make a plan
When we’re busy and travelling a lot, it’s easy to lose momentum. I tend to cut myself some slack and then end up with another week gone by and my goals not having moved forward. I’m determined this isn’t going to happen in November.
We’re away a couple of times and, apart from perhaps taking some photos for Instagram, I won’t have chance to do a lot of my own work. Focus is going to be key.
One of my starting points is a month at a glance A4 template. I got mine from Life is Messy Bootcamp but you could easily make your own by creating a 7 x 6 grid with the days of the week as column headers. I use these templates for all sorts – Chris’ demo schedule, our weekly menus, the cleaning schedule, and all my Seed to Source activities. This can include blog posts, social media ideas, links with awareness days, Instagram photos plus, as I’m doing this month, planning around the times when we’ll be away.
My Seed to Source goals to the end of the year include writing a first newsletter this week and the next one in December, weekly blog posts as well as backfilling a couple of gaps, daily Instagram posts and stories, a downloadable PDF for newsletter subscribers, a Christmas giveaway, recording a daily (or at least regular) 10 minute podcast, and a planning 2020 workbook.
I know I’m going to have to be very disciplined to achieve all of that so I’ve mapped out the tasks on my Google Calendar, factoring in additional work slots to compensate for days when we are committed elsewhere.
create a photo library
It can be feast or famine with my photography. Some days I’m reliant on a quick recce of the garden. I’ve been making a concerted effort to fit in a walk along the canal as often as I can and building up a library of photos to use on Instagram and on the blog. I tend to take square photos so I’ve mixed it up a bit and taken a few of the same thing but in portrait and landscape too. These can then be used in Instastories or to illustrate blog posts.
I like to post on Instagram first thing when I’m drinking my first coffee of the day. The house is quiet and I can think about what I want to say.
Often I will edit my photos. I usually have an idea in my head of what I want the final photo to look like. Nature photos generally have minimal editing. Perhaps just a tweak here and there. I do more work on my street art photos to achieve the look I’m going for.
My favourite apps are:
Mextures – I use this a lot for my street art and grunge photography. I especially like the Guest Formulas.
Snapseed – this is useful for general editing such as cropping, adding text, tuning the image. It also has a few options such as HDR, and black and white.
Distressed FX+ – again, really good for street art and grunge but choosing the right filters works well with landscape photos too. I add birds using this app!
ColorStory – these filters tend to be bright and colourful so I only use this for suitable images.
Perspectivize – this is really great for buildings or street art where the lines are not straight. I used it in the photo below to straighten up the left hand wall.
Although I’m up by 6:30 most days, I don’t always start working straightaway. I’m going to revert to the routine I kept a few months ago and capitalise on the house being quiet first thing. Getting a march on the day is a good way to compensate for any distractions later.
When we’re away it’s very rare that I can get much done. I’m usually looking after Bamber, Chris’ Guide Dog, chatting to people who have come to see the demo, taking care of logistics, recording videos and posting on Chris’ social media.
But occasionally I might get half an hour. That’s enough time to write some notes or progress an idea. I just need to be organised!
I’m going to make up a travel pack of index cards, a small notebook and, of course, pens! Plus some Post-Its of short tasks that could be completed in 5 or 10 minutes. Or topics to think about when I can.
The challenge is to keep the momentum going even with very small steps.
I also use the Bear app (a bit like Evernote but with a bear) – it’s great for jotting down blog ideas or adding draft content to an eBook. I wrote and edited a short story in Bear recently.
don’t be precious
As many of us are, I can be a bit of a perfectionist. I think it’s probably my number 1 limiting factor. Is my work good enough? Will it be met with brickbats rather than bouquets?
I know, as an outsider, looking at other people’s blog posts, photographs or writing that, if I love something, it doesn’t have to be perfect. It just has to connect with me in some way, be relevant, informative, helpful or inspiring. I don’t see the flaws that a creator might see in their own work.
I used to tell clients that 80% was good enough, that it’s the spirit of the work that’s important and not its perfection. It’s hard taking my own advice!
I’m learning that you can’t avoid distractions. You can just mitigate and plan for them. I’ll let you know how I get on!